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upon startup and which ones are constantly running in the
background. You can almost always change the settings so that
they use up less of your computer’s operating power.
Kelso says malware is the cause of many computer issues, so
Windows and Mac users need to take protective steps. Always
download antivirus software directly from the vendor site, and
don’t share your account information with others.
Part of keeping your computer secure is limiting access to it.
Marc Catuogno, director of information technology for Better
Homes and Gardens Rand Realty in New City, N. Y., oversees
200 computers for 800 active agents and 23 offices. To keep
data safe on corporate computers, Catuogno suggests centralizing important information and making it inaccessible to the
general sales population.
“We keep our data in the main home office,” Catuogno says.
“Anything really important we keep on our extranet, [which] is
password-protected and limits the harm that agents can do to
each other’s data.”
Keeping information stored this way can actually help
agents’ computers run more efficiently, because the hard drive
doesn’t have to store data locally. “There is very little informa-
tion actually on the computers; everything is Internet-based,”
Catuogno says. “We encourage the agents to keep their own
portable thumbnail drives if they need to access things.”
And it’s not just other users you need to be careful about; be
choosy about the web applications you use as well. Read their
user agreements and research past security breaches before
signing up. If you’re looking for a free e-mail solution, choose
Gmail, Kelso says, over the less-secure Yahoo or AOL.
Sometimes computers are slow because you’ve been ignoring
that box that pops up telling you it’s time to update programs,
or even to get the latest operating system. If you’re really far
behind, that can mean your software and hardware don’t have
the patches they need to interact smoothly and safely.
However, don’t get too update-happy. Sometimes it’s best to
wait a few days on major updates to make sure they work properly. United Real Estate Scottsdale broker Byron Short, who
oversees information technology for 42 agents, warns practitioners against updating immediately. “There’s no reason to be
on the bleeding edge,” Short says. “Let somebody else take the
damage. Then come in when it’s proven and it works.”
Having an End Game
Everyone needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario: losing
your data in a crash. Store critical business data on secure
servers or using cloud-based systems like Carbonite or Drop-box. Even when your computer suffers a catastrophic failure,
this doesn’t mean your business has to experience it as well.
Kelley Skar, a real estate practitioner with CIR Realty in Calgary,
Alberta, says the last time his laptop crashed in 2012, he lost 30
percent of his data. Fortunately, he’d backed the remainder up
using online storage systems. Since then he’s spent about $300
to add a two-terabyte external hard drive that uses Apple’s Time
Capsule program to back up his data locally once a month.
No matter how well you manage your computers, you’ll need
to replace them eventually. Catuogno’s company uses Windows
and Acer machines, but it doesn’t change out its inventory
wholesale. Instead, he replaces the oldest machines with new
PCs every 12 to 18 months. The company does keep older models that still have life in them available for agents who prefer to
stick with what they know.
By Michelle Hofmann